Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Scepter with Profile Figures

7th–8th century
Guatemala, Mesoamerica
H. 13 5/8 x W. 7 1/2 x D. 5/8 in. (34.6 x 19.1 x 1.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1967
Accession Number:
Not on view
Maya artists skillfully chipped flint, a fragile and challenging medium, into imaginative multifigure and geometric shapes. The worked flints are frequently found as offerings in Maya tombs. This eccentric flint depicts, in profile, two figures wearing headdresses. The larger of the two sits on a small short-backed stool and the smaller extends out from his back, as if being carried. Each silhouette displays the sloping forehead modification practiced by Maya peoples of the time and each has puckered lips. The undecorated base of this flint would have enabled it to be bound to a staff or it may have served as a handle allowing the object to function as a scepter, perhaps as an emblem of rulership. It has been suggested that the Maya believed flint to have been created when lightning struck the earth, thereby imbuing it with supernatural power. This flint may be a personification of such a power.
[Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York, until 1967]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1967–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 631.

Easby, Elizabeth Kennedy, and John F. Scott. Before Cortez: Sculpture in Middle America. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970, no. 201.

Schele, Linda, and Mary Ellen Miller. The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art. New York and Fort Worth: George Braziller, 1986, pp. 73, 83, pl. 26.

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